Guardian Ad Litems in Florida Child Custody Cases
Every parent wants what’s best for their child. But when going through a child custody case, some parents act selfishly, letting anger, hurt and betrayal guide their decisions regarding parenting plans and time sharing agreements, rather than what is truly in their child’s best interest. While child custody attorneys argue for a parenting plan based on the child’s best interests, ultimately they represents the parent, not the child. So how can you ensure that the child’s best interests are truly being considered? By requesting appointment of a guardian ad litem.
Guardian ad litems and the best interest of the child
A guardian ad litem (GAL) does not act as an attorney or advocate for the child during the custody proceedings. In fact, there is no requirement that a GAL be a licensed attorney, and the GAL must make requests to the court for information through an attorney. Either party may request that the judge appoint a GAL. In some cases, particularly those that are very contentious, or where there is a concern for the child’s well-being, the court can appoint a GAL.
Instead, the GAL is directed to “act as next friend of the child. . .(and) shall act in the child’s best interest.” The GAL is granted all powers, privileges and responsibilities necessary to advance the child’s best interests, including the power to:
- Investigate any allegations in the pleadings that affect the child;
- Interview the child, witnesses, or any other person with information related to the child’s well-being;
- Review any and all medical records related to the minor upon order of the court;
- Request that the court order the child or the parents to undergo expert examinations by medical personnel, and;
- Make written and/or oral recommendations to the court regarding what is in the child’s best interest.
In addition to recommendations on the parenting and time sharing plan that is in the child’s best interests, the GAL’s report may include a statement regarding the child’s wishes. While the judge is not bound by the GAL’s recommendations – he must still make a decision based on the best interest factors outlined by statute – they are given great weight in making the final decision. The insights gained by the GAL can also be invaluable for the parents as they move forward, giving them an insight into their child’s mental and emotional well-being that they may not have had otherwise.
Boca Raton Child Custody Attorneys
During a child custody proceeding it is sometimes hard for the parents to make decisions based on their child’s best interests. If you want to ensure that your child’s best interest are being considered when negotiating a parenting plan and time sharing agreement, having a guardian ad litem appointed can help. The Boca Raton child custody attorneys at Schwartz | White have more than 50 years’ combined experience helping clients prepare time sharing and parenting plans that take into consideration the GAL’s recommendations regarding the child’s placement. Our attorneys understand you have your children’s best interests at heart, and will help you ensure any custody agreement reflects that. Contact our Boca Raton office today at 561-391-9943 to schedule a free initial consultation.